India’s much-awaited movie- Brahmastra just released and it has been worth its hype. Amitabh Bachchan and Ranbir Kapoor starrer has a massive cast including prominent names like Alia Bhatt, Nagarjun, Dimple Kapadia, Mouni Roy, and of course Shahrukh Khan. The movie revolves around the powerful weapons of Hindu Mythology encircling the divine Brahmastra. Speaking of which, have you ever imagined how these Astras shaped Hindu mythology?
Astras and their importance in Puranas
Astras, in general terms, are celestial weapons that harness the powers of different gods. These Astras are transcendental supernatural weapons that are created by Gods and preside over a specific deity. They have such divine powers that not everyone can harness them, one must have the required knowledge of mantras and ability only then he or she could really use the unlimited power of the Astras. The presiding deity of any Astra once invoked creates these magical weapons that cannot be fought by regular means. If you are a Hindu, you might already understand the concept, however, if you are new to this, Astras could simply be the weapons of Gods.
In Hindu shastra, specific conditions existed involving the usage of Astras, and the violation of proper protocol could be fatal. Because once these weapons are created, they are only passed on from one generation to other and sometimes from a Guru to his students. So, the proper system or what we call mantras are passed only through word of mouth. This is called the Guru-Shishya Gyan and thus sometimes the privy of this knowledge is compromised. This makes several potential individuals unable to use the Astras and only one among a million can harness it.
Both in Ramayana and Mahabharata, the correct information rarely reaches the next generation and so only the one who directly received this celestial knowledge were able to use the Astras. In several pastimes, we have seen the use of Astras by skilled archers such as Ram, Arjuna, and Bhisma. They generally invoked these Astras into arrows, although they could potentially be used with anything. The most dangerous weapons that exist in the Vedas are Shiva’s Trishula, Vishnu’s Sudarshan Chakra, and Brahma’s Brahmastra. Viswakarma knew that only Shiva could carry the divine weapon and created Trishula for Shiva, Sudarshana Chakra for Vishnu, and Brahmastra for Brahma.
In Sanskrit, the bearer of an Astra is called an Astradhari and one Astradhari, if capable, could carry more than one Astras. For example, in Mahabharata Parashurama is stated to have possessed numerous Astras. As much as these Astras were dangerous, they were also the driving change in several wars fought between the gods or their incarnations. Both the wars in Ramayana and Mahabharata included several divine weapons from both ends and whoever used them right- won.
Though there are several weapons in Hindu mythology such as Agneya Astra, Varuna Astra, Naga Astra, Naga pasha, Vayu Astra, Surya Astra, Vajra Astra, Mohini Astra, or Nandi Astra- only a few have powers of complete annihilation.
Here are a few of the most powerful Astras from Hindu epics
Narayanastra: This Astra is the most powerful Astra in Hindu mythology. Once invoked it could only be stopped when the enemy surrenders to it completely. Nothing beyond total submission could ever stop this weapon. In Mahabharata, Lord Krishna, Drona, and Aswathama possessed the Narayanastra. When it was used, Ekdasha Rudras appeared in the sky to destroy the Pandavas and their army. Because Lord Krishna knew how to calm the weapon, he immediately advised Pandavas to drop their weapons and completely surrender to the celestial weapon. This way the Pandavas and their army survived.
Pashupatastra: Pashupatastra is the weapon of the consort of the Godhead Mahadeva, that is Mahakali. It is the personal weapon used by Shiva, Kali, and Adi Para Shakti as it could be discharged by mind, eyes, or words. It can destroy creation and vanquish all beings. To obtain this weapon, devotees must directly please Shiva. In Mahabharata only Arjuna and in Ramayana, only Indrajit were the ones who had the knowledge to possess Pashupatastra.
Brahma weapons: The Brahmastra and the Brahmashirsha Astra and the Brahmanda Astra, the three supernatural weapons are collectively called Brahma weapons. Together these three make the deadliest combo of weapons. Created by Lord Shiva, these weapons can destroy the whole universe. That is why it is important that when this weapon is used, it should be directly aimed at the fighter enemy otherwise it could cause incurable destruction. It never missed its mark and had to be used with very specific intent as it causes complete annihilation. But as much as it is destructive, it is also very difficult to use. The Individual who uses it must display immense mental concentration. Though been used multiple times in Ramayana and Mahabharata, only the most potential warriors such as Indrajit, Rama, Ashwatthama, Parasurama, Bhishma, Arjuna and Drona knew the art of invoking the Brahma Weapons.